No more sinning! (1 John 2.1-11)

No more sinning! (1 John 2.1-11)
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In Jesus Christ

How can we know that we are safely “in him” (2.5)? How can God’s love be fully experienced and evident in our lives (2.5)?
How can we be sure that we really do “know him” in genuine personal relationship (2.3)?
John addresses his letter to people who claim to be believers in Jesus. And he is concerned that their lives should match their profession of faith. How vitally important it is that we too should demonstrate the reality of our faith in lives of true holiness! John states this quite baldly, “I am writing these things to you in order that you may not sin” (2.1).  He goes on to explain what he has in mind when he talks of “sin”. He means that we must obey the commands of God which come to us by means of God’s Word (2.3-5) – how vital it is therefore that we soak ourselves in the Bible, so that we can live our lives in accordance with his Word! Those who claim to “abide in him” should follow Jesus, modelling our lives on his life. Just as he is loving and holy, so we too are called to mirror his sinless perfection in our daily lives (2.6).
John even says that our Christian assurance rests on the fact of our obedience to God’s commands (2.3). We recognise that we “know” the Lord and so have come into a living relationship with him if we “obey his commands”. If we don’t obey his Word and his truth does not live in us (truth/truly comes four times in these few verses. In John’s Gospel too he strongly stresses truth), then we are liars when we claim to know the Lord (2.4). We may note again the tremendous importance of obedience to God’s commands in his Word.
But what if . . . ?
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Having boldly declared that we should not sin any more (2.1), John realises immediately that actually none of us live perfectly without sin. So he straight away gives us the remedy, “If anyone does sin . . . “. The glorious truth shines out to warm and comfort our hearts, “We have an advocate to approach (pros/towards) the Father” (2.1). Before his cross, resurrection and ascension Jesus had promised that he would not desert them or leave them without his presence. He assured them that he would send them “another advocate/paraclete” (John 14.16). Now John reminds his readers that, like the Holy Spirit, Jesus himself is our advocate to bring us into the very glory of the Father despite our sin. The word ‘paraclete’ was normally used for an ‘advocate’ in legal court cases, not just a ‘comforter’ or ‘counsellor’ as in some translations of John 14.16.  So, Jesus represents us and pleads for our acceptance on the basis of his sacrificial death on the cross. John then uses a technical term which refers back to the old sacrificial system and which NIV rightly translates as “the atoning sacrifice” (2.2). Likewise KJV translates it as ‘propitiation’ which correctly carries the idea of placating the righteous anger of our holy God against sin. Both these translations convey the true sense of this word. In this context John points out that Jesus is “the Righteous One”, the perfect sacrifice without spot or blemish.
The fundamental nature of Jesus’ work on our behalf lies in his revelation of the Father to us. And he not only reveals the Father, but also covers our sin with his righteousness and prays for us. As we think of Jesus interceding for us, we can be confident that Martha was right in her faith-filled word to Jesus, “God will give you whatever you ask” (John 11.22). In our sin we cannot hope to stand before the all-holy God, but in and through the all-righteous Jesus’ prayers on our behalf we gain acceptance into relationship with the ever gracious almighty Father.

“For the whole world” (2.2)

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As Christians we always face the danger of becoming very self-centred – our faith, our salvation, our discipleship, our filling with the Spirit, our eternal life. And as Christian churches we can easily become ethnically narrow and inward-looking. So it was also for the 1st century church which John was relating to. Throughout the Old Testament times Israel had been uniquely ‘God’s people’. Now Jesus the Messiah with his disciples and followers were all Jews. How easy therefore to feel that Jesus had come only for his own Jewish people! Was Jesus’ atoning death only for Jews?
By the time John wrote his letters large numbers of Gentiles had also come to faith in Jesus and been joined to the fundamentally Jewish church. But it was still a debatable issue whether Gentiles should be accepted as equal members of Jesus’ church. Should the church remain a Jewish institution with a few Gentile proselytes and God-fearers grudgingly accepted on the fringes? Or should the church become an international movement, although its roots should of course always remain firmly Jewish?
It is in the context of this sort of debate that John affirms that the sacrificial death of Jesus as an atonement for sin was valid not just for our sins as Jews, “but also for the sins of the whole world” (2.2). Today too we need to be reminded that the message of Jesus’ cross should be proclaimed to Jew and Gentile, to all people and all nations everywhere. What a call to world mission! Does this world vision lie at the heart of our Christian life and as the fundamental purpose of our church?
The old commandment
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Following on from 2.1-6, Jesus told his disciples that he was giving them a new commandment (John 13.34). Actually it had its roots in the very beginning of human existence (2.7). Adam and Eve already at the outset of human history seem to have lived together in mutual love and harmony. So John declares that the command he is giving his readers originated “since the beginning” (2.7). As fellow disciples of Jesus and thus as sisters and brothers of each other, we are commanded to love one another. This command for Christians to love one another follows naturally from John’s emphasis on joyful fellowship in 1.3/4. Of course righteousness in obedience to God’s commands must include much more than just our love and fellowship as Christians together. But such love forms the foundation and lies at the heart of our life as Christians in his church. Loving our fellow believers is at the heart of what it means to ‘walk in the light’ (2.9-11).
How encouraging that John confidently asserts that the old loveless darkness “is passing and the true light is already shining” (2.8). The fulfilment of the commandment to love our fellow believers has begun to be evident not only in the life of Jesus himself, but also in the inter-relationship of the Christians John is writing for, “in him and you” (2.8). Failure to obey this command to love our fellow believers shows that we are still walking in darkness with the inevitable consequence that we will “stumble”. Because we are then walking in the dark, we will not know where our lives are heading (2.10/11). How common this is today – people eat in order to work and work in order to eat. Life can become terribly aimless, living only for the occasional intermittent pleasure activities. As is commonly said in our world today, “there must be more to life than what we’ve got”.
May we and our church show in our lives and by our loving fellowship that the true light is indeed already shining!
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P.S. For further Bible study I hope many of you will get hold of my books “Matthew and Mission: the Gospel through Jewish eyes” (available through Jews for Jesus in London) and “Any Complaints? Blame God: God’s Message for today – Habakkuk the Prophet Speaks” (Authentic Media).(click on pics to purchase for 1p!)
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